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Monday, August 31, 2015

The Romanovs by Virginia Cowles

(Peter the Great)

Virginia Cowles writes that the Romanovs were 'savage and perverse'.  She certainly focuses on the sensational and gruesome aspects of their characters!  Most of them either liked murdering their enemies and anyone who rebelled against them.  Many of the women were almost as promiscuous and evil-tempered as the men. This is an interesting whirlwind tour of the history of the wild Russian rulers, and a good introduction.  However, I'd advise you to read this after meals.  Otherwise, all the killing may turn you off your food!



Cowles, Virginia  The Romanovs
Endeavour Press
Kindle $3.50

I received this ebook from Net Galley in exchangee for an honest review.



The Beast's Garden by Kate Forsyth

This is an evocative and fast-paced novel about a beautiful and bravve music student who finds herself falling in love with a handsome Nazi in Berlin before the war.  Ava doesn't understand how Leo can like the poetry of Rilke, seem to be such an honourable person and work for the cruel and bullying Nazis.  She hates everything that they stand for, including arresting her Jewish friend.

However, is he really one of them?  Perhaps, he is hiding a secret.

I liked the sympathetic characters in this tale by the Australian author Kate Forsyth and the atmospheric descriptions of Berlin.  You could almost feel the snow crunching under your feet! I gave the book four stars at Net Galley because of this, but I did think that the story was a bit far-fetched.  However, as Hamlet said: 'There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy'.

I received this ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Forsyth, Kate.  The Beast's Garden
Random House Australia
Kindle  $9.95

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Edith Cavell Faith before the Firing Squad by Catherine Butcher

Vividadica, Edith Cavell, Wikimedia Commons.

I noticed several streets in France named after this famous nurse who was executed by the Germans, but I am ashamed to admit that I didn't know much about her so I was anxious to read this book, and it is well-worth reading.  My mother's view of her had been affected by German propaganda after the First World War, I think, so I wanted to know the true story.

Catherine Butcher tells Edith Cavell's story from a religious point of view.  Cavell had a strong but restrained Anglican faith which helped her through the dark days of The First World War and assisted her to die courageously when she was faced with the firing squad in occupied Belgium.  Cavell was brave but not saintly, and Butcher hasn't made this book too admiring, thankfully.

Cavell had a happy and normal Norfolk childhood but she had a strict father who sent her away to school when she was a bit 'naughty' and he caught her smoking.  She did well at school but she found learning nursing in London a bit of a struggle, and the matron wasn't all that impressed with her at first.  It was extremely difficult because she was very young, and the nurses had no social life.  They were instantly dismissed if they went out with doctors or medical students!

Cavell became an excellent nurse eventually, and immediately set out for Belgium when was was declared, because she felt that she 'was more need than ever'.  Here she was matron of Belgium's first training school for nurses, where she was greatly loved by her 'girls'. After the Germans conquered the small but heroic country, there was growing resistance, and Cavell helped the movement by harbouring escaped soldiers and helping them leave Belgium.  She was caught by the Germans and faced her terrible punishment.

This is well-written and interesting, but I found it a little bit dry and very factual.  However, I do defy anyone to read Butcher's account of Cavell's death without crying!







The Eagle in Splendor: Inside the Court of Napoleons by Phillip Mansel


Lord Roseberry once wrote that: 'No Bourbons or Hapsburgs were so imbued with their royal prerogatives as these princes of an hour'. This fascinating book tells the story of Napoleon's grand and aloof court and the strange characters who inhabited it. Napoleon wanted an aristocratic court to rival the other European monarchies and that's what he attempted to create. 

It is easy to read and full of interesting anecdotes. I especially enjoyed the tale of how Empress Josephine found her husband in bed with a lady-in-waiting and got so angry that she sent her away. Napoleon had the cheek to lose his temper and smashed up some of the furniture! Poor Josephine was apparently usually lovely and charming but Napoleon's was mostly nasty and rude.

This is a must-read for anyone interested in Napoleon's and the eccentric Bonaparte family.

I received this ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Only Yesterday by Frederick Lewis Allen

This is probably the definitive book about America in the 1920s. Allen begins by describing the rather sedate and dull life of a typical couple in 1919. Then he provides a vivid account of the explosive changes of the 1920s, such as the obsession with sex, the rise of Communism, the corruption of President Harding's administration and the wild rise of the stock market. He ends the book with the mortgage crisis in Florida that led to the Great Depression. I disagreed with some of Allen's views, but this is a classic of journalism and extremely well-written.

This should be required reading in schools, I think! Perhaps we could have avoided the GFC if more people had read this brilliant book.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Called for Life by Kent and Amber Brantly with David Thomas

Ij
'Simon Davis/DFID, Donna Wood, British Volunteer Nurse, Wikipedia.

Kent Brantly, a medical missionary in Liberia, was in charge of an Ebola unit when he caught the disease himself. He was taken back to the United States and treated there, a controversial decision.

This is a factual and fairly graphic ccount of Kent and Amber's experiences. Kent treated many people with Ebola and only one survived - a young male teenager. He describes the symptoms of the disease and its dehumanising effects on the poor patients graphically. He also describes the effects of Ebola on life in Liberia and how it affected local customs and even funerals.

The book is also written from Amber's point of view. She tells about how terrible she felt when she heard the news about Kent and how she handled it. In the midst of all this, she had to deal with a

hungry media and even change her Facebook settings.

This is an inspirational but harrowing story. Both Kent and Amber have great faith and courage, traits that helped them through this awful crisis.

I received this free ebook from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

The Collector by Anne-Laure ThiƩblemont Le French Book Mystery & Thrillers, Literature/Fiction (Adult)

I am afraid that I couldn't get into this, but it's had good reviews. I will try one of Le French Book's cosy mysteries instead.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Living a Life That Matters – A Memoir of the Marquis de Lafayette by David M. Weitzman

This is a detailed and factual biographical account of Lafayette.  Although well-written in a sensitive and suitably old-fashioned way, I am not sure about this new combination of biography and novel.  I would rather have read a straight biography of the handsome hero who famously rebelled against his own kind and country and risked his life as a volunteer for the American cause.  However, I realise that many people will disagree and it could be argued that this format helps to bring the main characters to life.

Weitzman certainly describes the horrors and the terrible defeats of the battles of the American Revolution vividly, and the characters of Lafayette and George Washington are well-rrounded and sympathetic - as they should be!

I enjoyed this book but I would prefer to read a biography.

Living a Life That Matters – A Memoir of the Marquis de Lafayette by David M. Weitzman

Smith Publicity

Kindle: $6.03

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.


Must You Go? by Antonia Fraser

Several years ago my mother gave me a newspaper article to read and stated that my heroine had feet of clay.  That heroine was Lady Antonia Fraser.  According to the article, Harold Pinter's wife had been driven to drink and despair because of his affair with Lady Antonia.  It even inferred that she may have committed suicide as a result.  The scandal involving the couple certainly shocked England, partly because Lady Antonia was married as well with six children! They eventually married and the relationship lasted thirty years until Pinter's death in his seventies. Some reviewers have criticised their eventual marriage in the Catholic church as bending the rules, but as both of their spouses were dead, I couldn't see anything wrong with it.

The love story between this couple was wonderfully romantic and they were destined to be together, however, I did get the feeling that Lady Antonia regarded Vivian (Pinter's wife) as rather a nuisance and she didn't see her side of it at all.  Vivian got her own back by saying that if Harold needed a pair of shoes he could always wear Fraser's because her feet were so big!

This book was a delight to read with interesting snippets about Pinter's plays and Lady Antonia's biographies and their travels together.  It also has a lot of details about Pinter's very left-wing politics and protests. Be warned that the account of Pinter's illness is extremely sad and harrowing.

Is she still one of my heroines?  I still greatly admire her, so yes, she is.




Saturday, August 01, 2015

A Decade of French Fashion, 1929-1938 From the Depression to the Brink of War Mary Carolyn Waldrep

( Infrogmation of New Orleans, Grandma was stylish and up-to-the-minute back in 1935, Wikimedia Commons)

Kashamoussa, cashmere, georgette, velvet, taffeta.  The very names of the materials of these materials evoke a decade of glamour and luxury, even though it was the Depression era! These beautiful gowns and dresses accompanied by excellent descriptions will appeal to everyone interested in the history of fashion.  It's also likely to inspire fashion illustrators and designers.

This is certainly a must-buy!

I received this free ebook from Net Galley in return for an honest review.